December is a month for overreactions. Gifts in the form of awkward turtlenecks, hard candies and the latest technical solutions to organizational problems you never knew you had prompt the classic symptoms: raised eyebrows and an overly nice, “Wow! Thank you. It’s funny, I’ve never even heard of this before.”
You know it’s January when the line-ups at the exchange counter compete with the regular checkout lanes. But this December prompted an overreaction unlike any I have ever seen.
THE END OF THE WORLD—all caps on that one. The great Mayan apocalypse was scheduled for Dec. 21, 2012. Was the world going to be swallowed up into a soup of boiling lava? Were extraterrestrials going to torpedo down on us from the skies? The sheer mystery of the ancient expiration date created frenzy in even the cynics amongst us (not to mention a great party theme!).
I got to witness first hand this particular day of mass overreactions from the heart of Mexico, on a vacation to the Mayan Riviera with my family. While I spent Dec. 21 trying to talk my way into a few extra cherries for my tequila sunrise, hundreds of people flocked to the remaining relics of the ancient world. Perhaps they were hoping to be spared from doomsday, or maybe to witness the spectacle for themselves.
Funny thing, though: the only people digging holes deep into the ground and stocking their cellars in preparation for a toxic radiation cloud were non-Mayans. Because for the Mayan people, December marked not just the end of a 5,125-year cycle, but rather the beginning of a new era, a day of celebration and rejuvenation.
Whoops—bit of a misunderstanding on that one. The few times I brought up Dec. 21 as the end of the world to Mayans in the Yucatan I got laughed at.
So it got me thinking. How could one event, the end of a calendar, create such a vexing reaction in some people and a completely nonchalant or even celebratory one in others?
It reminded me of something my dad told me over the break, when I was having a meltdown over the prospect of my upcoming internship.
“It’s not a make or break moment,” he said. “It’s just a make moment.” As students we are so often facing opportunities that feel like make or break moments, or, dare I say it, the end of the world. Essays, exams, interviews and internships—we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and we expect to lose it all if we make a mistake.
But the reality is, even if we don’t get an A or a second interview or a job at the end of an internship, we aren’t going to lose everything we’ve worked for. And in a couple of months, weeks or maybe even just a few days, we will be presented with another opportunity, in whatever shape or form life chooses to throw at us.
So stop with the overreactions, the anxiety and the meltdowns. No more turning opportunities into seemingly horrific moments that mark the downward spiral that will be the rest of our lives. And for God’s sake, no more completely misinterpreting a beautiful, exciting moment in a foreign culture to mean the end of the world and a need to build a bunker in your basement.